When Lynne heard her friend needed a kidney donation, she didn't hesitate to offer her own -- even though they hadn't seen each other in 15 years!
What was your major at Simmons and what's your current job title?
I majored in retail management and finance and minored in women’s studies. I work in the financial services industry.
You donated your kidney to a friend you hadn't seen in 15 years! Can you tell us how this amazing story came about?
She was a former employee of mine when I worked for AT&T. Another employee sent a newsy email updating us on various coworkers from the past, one of her line items was “and Tamara is on a kidney donor list!” I was quite surprised and reached out to Tamara directly to see how I could help.
What was the kidney donation process like?
You complete a questionnaire about your general health and family health history. We are lucky not to have a history of kidney disease in our family. There is significant blood work to clear you of any cancer or other major health issues. There is also a 24-hour urine collection. All of this can be done close to home. During my interview with the social worker to see if I was mentally fit to donate, she asked me a couple of key questions:
- Do you think that Tamara will take good care of your kidney? My response: “absolutely! She was a fantastic employee and always extremely conscientious. I know she will treat my kidney well.
- Why do you want to donate? My response: “because you're putting me through such rigorous blood work and other medical tests, if you find something wrong with me, that’s a gift to me! If you don’t find anything wrong, I can give Tamara a gift!”
I also had a CT Scan of my kidneys and a stress test to confirm I was healthy enough to handle the surgery. Once this was all complete, the University of Cincinnati Transplant center medical team met to provide final approval that I would be a good living donor candidate.
Tell us about the importance of kidney donation.
We all can live with 1 kidney, but living without kidney function is a difficult life. Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes and high blood pressure for those over age 60. Overuse of pain medications (Advil, Motrin, Aleve) can also impact your kidney function. Tamara has hereditary polycystic kidney disease. Her father died from the disease. Her brother and nephew both have the disease as well. Amazingly, once she got a new kidney, she will never have this problem again.
From a lifestyle perspective, limited kidney function can require that you have dialysis 3 times a week for 3-4 hours each time. Also, your diet is limited – minimal protein which can cause other problems (low iron, brittle bones and teeth). Dialysis and other medication can significantly reduce your lifespan.
101,000 people need a kidney and only 17,000 find a donor each year. 12 people die each day waiting for a kidney. Donors can easily live a full life on 1 kidney and it only takes about 6 months for your 1 kidney to take over 95% of full kidney function.
What advice would you give to someone considering kidney donation?
- Make sure you can take care of yourself – that you are not a caregiver to others – for at least 2 months. I’m currently an empty nester and am not caring for parents or in-laws.
- Confirm that you can take 10 days to 2 weeks off from work. I’m fortunate to run my own business with support staff in my office. I’m not doing heavy lifting for my job, and most can be done remotely. I was back to work within 2 weeks with 4-6 hour days. Note: you will not be able to lift more than 10 pounds for 6 weeks (approximately the weight of a gallon of milk).
- Educate your family about the surgery so they can be supportive of your decision. My 80-year-old mother, who still keeps her nursing license current, was with me for the 10 days while in Cincinnati. My husband also flew back and forth. They were both a tremendous support.
- Discuss the potential financial costs and who will pay for these. A kidney transplant costs approximately $100,000 each ($200,000 for the 2 surgeries) which is usually covered by the recipient’s healthcare. There are other costs if you are out of town – hotel, airfare and airfare for your caregiver. Note: The savings is over a million dollars in their lifetime.
- If you choose to become a kidney donor and you have a need for a kidney transplant in the future, you will be moved to the top of the donor list. It’s a nice thing to tell family members – I always forget this, because I don’t plan to ever invoke it.
How can the Simmons community support kidney donation?
Even if you don’t know someone who needs a kidney, you can participate in the kidney matching program
. You may not be a match for a friend or relative, but this matching program allows you to donate to someone else, while finding a match for your loved one.
Can you give us an update on Tamara's condition?
Tamara is doing remarkably well! Her kidney is performing normally and she has no dietary restrictions. She will still be monitored closely, but she’s well on her way to leading a new full life. This is by far the most gratifying part of being a living kidney donor!
What's your Simmons moment?
The entire 4 years at Simmons helped me to grow and blossom as a woman and as a person. Each day was a building block to greater confidence and self-esteem. There are many risks I’ve taken thanks to the confidence I gained at Simmons. I’m certain that my Simmons experience helped enable me to consider being a living kidney donor.